new-adult fiction

Submissions

Hello everyone! It has been a crazy few months, but let me fill you in on all the exciting things I’ve been up to.

First, I completed a second round of revisions for my scientific article. I just finished these last week. I’m not sure how many rounds of revisions there will be before my article gets published, but IJES is very prestigious and thus there might be more revisions to complete in the future.

That being said, the revisions I made in this last round resulted in a very cohesive piece. The article now reads very well, being both concise and informative. So hopefully this set of revisions will be the last before publication, but we will see!

After I submitted my article revisions, I started working again on polishing up my novel. I actually found a new place to submit my novel unsolicited! From my preliminary research, the publisher seems to offer good contracts to their authors, so I figure it’s worth a shot!

Before I submit, I am going through the novel again to make sure that everything is on-point. I have to say, I am really digging this intro with the prologue! It’s funny how when you put something away for a few months and then work on it again, you can see it more clearly with fresh eyes for what it is. This opening works very well!

Last night I polished up the introductory frame, so now I’m working more on the middle section. From the part I read last night, the work I had done a few months ago really paid off! You would never have guessed that the main character had sounded flat at one point. Now she has a really strong voice and a lot of attitude (lol).

Anyway, with the long weekend ahead I am going to work on my novel as much as possible. I will submit very soon! I foresee lots of coffee in my future as I prepare my manuscript. 😀

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More Articles; More Revisions

After I finished my scientific article revisions, I decided to write an article for Cosmo. This article is a short piece (about 800 words) on the subject of body image issues. I submitted the article to them last Tuesday, so keep your fingers crossed for me! Hopefully it will appear in a future issue 🙂

Once I was done with the Cosmo article, I started working again on polishing up my novel. I am still fixing up the middle section of it so that it’s less flat when written from the first-person perspective. Another thing that I’m doing is organizing the whole section so that it has improved flow and clarity. This is proving to be more difficult than I realized.

Much of the difficulty lies in the fact that there’s a lot of flashbacks necessary for the middle section to make sense to the reader. I had been incorporating the flashbacks as I went, as the info became pertinent to the story. The result was a layering effect in which the narrative delved deeper and deeper into the emotions of the main character. This is exactly what I was going for. This sort of emotional layering is very powerful for readers, as it provides them with an extra level of rawness and intensity that really helps them to identify with the main character.

For instance, imagine that you are telling a story to your best friend. In the middle of your story, he or she interrupts you and asks you to clarify something. You tell the back-story to your best friend, which helps him or her to understand your current story and helps him or her to understand your feelings. This is exactly the effect I have in my novel.

While this is a cool effect to have in a narrative, one drawback of it is that the time travel with the flashbacks can seem kind of jumbled and confusing to the reader. I had contemplated changing the organization of the middle section so that it would be chronological; this would eliminate the confusion from the time-traveling flashbacks. That being said, doing so would totally kill the layering effect that I have created. Also, making it chronological might actually be more confusing to the reader, because the reader wouldn’t understand why those details are even being discussed in the first place.

The other thing that I had considered doing was taking the info out and putting it into prequel(s). However, doing so would also eliminate the layering effect. In addition, it would drastically reduce my word count, which I can’t afford to do.

At 41,000 words, my novel is currently too short to be published. I need to add more to it to make it longer (a novel is typically no less than 50,000 words). It is actually kind of funny that I have this problem, because I have literally always had the opposite problem. My work has always been too long, which means that I have had to spend time streamlining it so that it becomes shorter. For instance, my Cosmo article started out being 1800 words; then I had to cut it down to just 800 words to meet the word limit. I’m really not used to adding material because my piece is too short to meet the requirements.

But, I will see what I can do. Maybe by adding more information here and there, I can simultaneously  increase the flow/transition of the novel to make the flashbacking more clear and natural to the reader.

Opening Scene

After many revisions, I have finally settled on an opening scene for my novel that works. Yay!!!

The first thing I did was to answer all of the agent’s questions in the very first page. This was very difficult; it took me a long time to figure out how to do this correctly. It was very difficult because I liked the way that I had presented the answers to these questions in my earlier draft (meaning, I had become attached to the language and the phrasing that I had used in my earlier draft). When I subsequently moved up these sections to occur earlier in the story, the language and phrasing no longer worked and I needed to change most of it. This was a bummer, but I finally got the revision to work with new language and phrasing that I like.

After I reworked the content of the opening scene, I had some guinea pigs read it and give me feedback. Even though I had answered all of the agent’s pertinent questions upfront, my guinea pigs still thought that the main character was a nutcase. Geez, this problem was a tough nut to crack! (lol)

It turns out, a large part of the problem was that I had used the wrong syntax for indicating that the main character was thinking to herself. Because I had used quotation marks instead of italics, my readers thought incorrectly that my character was talking to herself out loud. No wonder everyone thought that she was a nutcase! She was seemingly talking to herself out loud and yelling at herself out loud in every other paragraph…

That part was an easy fix, but it did not solve the problem entirely. There was also a line at the end that set the wrong tone for the rest of the novel. People read it and thought that my novel would be like a slasher/revenge sort of novel, which is not what I had intended at all.

I revised that section and had people reread it until it gave off the correct tone. What I ended up doing was having the narrator talk about something that the main character did not yet understand, telling the reader about the problem vaguely without actually giving any concrete details. My goal for this part was to be mysterious in a good way, to intrigue the reader so that he or she wants to read more and wants to find out what happens next.

Finally, what really helped to fix the opening was adding a prologue. The prologue I added is short, sweet, and in all italics. It is a flashback to the middle section of the novel, detailing an abusive scene. The prologue really helped set an ominous tone for the rest of the novel, as well as provided more sympathy toward the main character.

So that’s it for the opening scene! Up next: fixing the middle section.

When I referenced the middle section to write the prologue, I realized that my middle section is very flat. The reason for this is that I have a tense change into the first person. In order to properly engage the reader while writing in the first person, the writing must be extra dramatic and over the top. So, this is what I will be tackling next.

Room For Improvement

Last week, I received my literary agent’s feedback on my query letter and on my first five pages. For those of you who don’t remember, I took a Writer’s Digest webinar last month about the querying process; as part of this webinar, my assigned literary agent critiqued my query letter and my sample pages with suggestions on how I can improve.

My agent gave me many comments. I was overwhelmed and shocked by what she said. I needed to take some time to absorb her comments before writing about them and before forming a plan of action. At first I took what she said very personally, but I realize now that this is just an opportunity to improve my writing.

I mentioned before that my novel is written in “frame” style. In other words, there is a large backstory in the middle that is “framed” by a dark romance that occurs in the present time. During the webinar, my agent told me that according to standard protocol, I needed to start my sample pages from the very beginning of the novel. Thus, I had followed her instructions and had done exactly that.

However, as a result of this, the agent became VERY frustrated with my novel. She wanted me to reveal ALL of the important details upfront, instead of “hiding” them from the reader. She had many questions about the motives of my main character; she wanted many of these questions to be answered right away in the very first page.

I did not know how to precede after she gave me this suggestion, because the answers to her questions are very complex and simply cannot be explained in one page (let alone in the very FIRST page). The main character with the extremely complicated past cannot just reveal ALL of her personal details upfront, because the reader needs that understanding of her past events before the answers to the questions will make sense. Plus, not knowing ALL of the details upfront keeps the reader engaged in the mystery and in the surprise of the story as it unfolds.

Therefore, the way that the novel is currently set up is that the questions are slowly answered throughout the novel, once sufficient explanation of past events has occurred. This way, the reader can properly sympathize with the main character before the darkest details are revealed.

In spite of this, without enough explanation up front, the main character comes across completely wrong to the reader. The main character has extremely odd behavior at the beginning of the novel because she is an abuse victim; thus she is working on overcoming that abuse and acts strangely.

However, not knowing any of this, the agent read my sample pages and came to the conclusion that my main character is a nutcase.

Clearly, I need to make some changes so that the main character does not come across as a complete psycho. I’m flirting with the idea of adding a short prologue that contains a flashback to the abuse. I also need to add in more foreshadowing in the first few pages to help the main character seem more frail and fragile to the reader. Hopefully, this will help solve the problem.

Also, I need to more clearly articulate the structure of the novel in my query letter so that the agent will have a better understanding of how the story will unfold after the first five pages. I need to clearly specify that this novel is written in “frame” style and I also need to spoil the mystery for the agent. I had thought before that the book summery that is included in the query letter is the same one that will be written on the back of the book or on the inside jacket, but that is wrong. Unlike the reader, the agent needs the story to be spoiled with more details of what actually happens in the novel, so that he or she can properly understand the structure of the story and think about how it might unfold later.

So, I have lots of things to improve with my novel. Time to get started!

Welcome!

Hello everyone! Welcome to my website. Feel free to sit back, relax, and make yourself a cup of coffee. Or three.

My name is Caitlin Hartig; I am a new-adult fiction writer who is transitioning from a scientific background. Just last May, I graduated with my Master’s degree in Geology (Geothermal Energy) from University of North Dakota. In May 2013, I earned my Bachelor’s degree in Geosciences from Penn State University. My research has been published in several scientific journals.

As far as fiction goes, I specialize in novels and short stories. My first novel, Smash, has been completed and is awaiting publication. My first short story, Blue Sparkles, has also been completed and is awaiting publication.

Though primarily in the new-adult genre of fiction, my work contains elements of dystopia and dark romance. My writing style has been described as raw, explicit, intense, and dramatic.

In this blog, I will share information about my search for literary agents, my publication information, and of course my writing samples. Stay tuned!